Exciting news filtered down to the Eurorock column a while back concerning the legendary Hawkwind. Last December saw me make my annual pilgrimage from France to see them in London’s now sadly departed Astoria. It’s a trip that I try and make every year and sure enough it was a great night. They are currently playing dates across the UK, if you can get to them.
Shortly after that excellent evening last winter I heard that the Esoteric label, part of Cherry Red Recordings, had purchased Hawkwind’s entire back catalog between the years 1976 and 1997. This means that every Hawkwind album from Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music through to Distant Horizon will be getting the full re-release treatment.
Judging by past efforts from the Cherry Red group this is a development that will be well worth looking forward to. This news also marks the launch of a new label within the Cherry Red group called Atomhenge. It is on this label that the re-releases are appearing.
Not only do Atomhenge now hold the worldwide exclusive rights to every Hawkwind album between those dates but also every single, EP, and all the associated master tapes from that period. Let’s face it, there hasn’t been a dull period as far as the incredible journey of Hawkwind is concerned so this news is particularly exciting for everyone and anyone who has ever tripped over this band.
There have been several generations that have been influenced by them. Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing a band called the Oresund Space Collective who are busy proving that point with some excellent albums. Soon I will return to them to review their latest offering from the outskirts of the universe called Good Planets Are Hard To Find, so please watch this space.
The Atomhenge Hawkwind catalog starts with 1976’s Astounding Stories, Amazing Music album which is re-released with four bonus tracks. They are “Honk Dorky”, previously unreleased mixes of “The Dream Of Isis” and “Back On The Streets”, along with the single mix of “Kerb Crawler”.
1976 was a strange year in the history of Hawkwind. The word strange and Hawkwind go hand in hand of course, but this was the first album since Lemmy literally sped off, having fallen out of favor. The rest is history, as they say, and he went on to form Motorhead.
This album therefore represented something of a transition period for the band who explored several different avenues showing a fascinating and wide ranging approach even by their own ground breaking standards.
Arguably, the album did not quite deliver everything that it said in the title. However, it does reveal several strands that led to further, perhaps more developed, journeys that were explored subsequently. When heard today, the end result stands up surprisingly strong. The opening chords of the first track “Reefer Madness” underpin a mix of boppy jaunt that has actually aged quite well. It bodes well for what’s to follow.
“Steppenwolf” still appears in the odd live set, an incredible thirty plus years later. It seems redundant to describe this near ten minute offering as eccentric but that’s what it undoubtedly is. “City Of Lagoons” slowly mystifies whilst radiating a hypnotic floating trance. It is a track for which the Ipod was all but invented.
“The Aubergine – That Ate Rangoon” glides in to encourage a similar state of mind despite it regrettably running out of steam way too soon. “Kerb Crawler” strides in nicely blazing an easy going opening for a similarly effortless “Kadu Flyer”. The original album closes with “Chronoglide Skyway” which is so cool that it simply swirls around somewhere out near the planet Pluto.
All in all Astounding Sounds. Amazing Music is, whilst not being generally considered as among Hawkwinds most memorable moments, well worth re-visiting. In fact I would go as far to say that if you haven’t heard this since it came out, (like me I guess) then grab this and give it another going over. You will be pleasantly surprised.
In the meantime we can look forward to the re-releases of such albums from the Hawkwind clan as Levitation, Sonic Attack, Live Seventy Nine, Choose Your Masques, Electric Teepee, Chronicle Of The Black Sword, Distant Horizon, and Quark, Strangeness And Charm.
Every album from this period will appear as expanded and re-mastered editions over the next eighteen months. All of them will also include previously unreleased bonus material taken from the recently acquired master tapes. Exciting stuff indeed.
The first place to visit for more information on these releases is the new Atomhenge website. Delve around a bit and you will find that other gems, such as Robert Calvert’s 1984 album Freq, are also available.
Also don't forget to call in on Hawkwind's official website to catch up on those live dates.